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Lisbon Treaty To What Extent Does the Lisbon Treaty Advance the EU Objective of Greater Political Integration?

In December 2007, on the 13th to be precise, the heads of state and government of the extant 27 European Union (EU) member states gathered to sign into existence, the Lisbon Treaty (EuroStep, n.d). The sole objective of the treaty was to make provisions for the new additions in terms of membership of the EU, which had increased from 15 to 27 member states. The increase in membership necessitated the need to make provisions for the existing objectives to assimilate the new members and vice versa. It can also be said that the treaty built on the existing political integration functionality of the then extant EU treaty, the Constitutional Treaty, and consequently, those of its other predecessors like the Treaty of Nice, the Treaty of Amsterdam, and the Maastricht Treaty. Despite these updates and amendments to the existing treaties, there is every possibility that the Lisbon Treaty has not advanced the greater political integration objectives of the EU as expected. The reasons why this may be so and why not will be subsequently exploited in the paragraphs below. Before delving into the intricacies of the Treatys pertinence (or lack of it) to political integration, it is necessary to briefly provide a background on how the Treaty evolved. The EU, being the parent body that is responsible for The Lisbon Treaty and its predecessors had its humble beginnings in 1950, a few years after the Second World War that devastated the continent had ended (Europa, n.d). The original essence was to have some nations come together with the aim of pooling their coal and steel resources to boost the production of these commodities. The coalition of countries that formed the framework on which the present day EU was formed include France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, West Germany, and Luxembourg (Europa, n.d). After the success of the first treaty that these nations signed together to pool steel and coal resources, they proceeded to duplicating the model into other sectors of their governments (Europa, n.d). To be specific, the treaty that followed that of the steel and coal industries was the Treaty of Rome, which saw the creation of the European Economic Community, and subsequently led to the signing into existence, the European Atomic Energy Community (Europa, n.d). These newfound cooperative avenues attracted other countries located on the continent and with time the membership swelled as the objectives of the group of countries came to revolve around the free movement of people, goods, and service, across the borders of the member countries. For example, Greece, Spain, and Portugal were countries that joined the community after they probably had recognized the borderless prospects of the EU establishment (Europa, n.d). As the members increased, it became necessary to have the contributions of each member reviewed, and this led to the formation of series of treaties, until the Maastricht Treaty in which the European Union, as it is presently recognized, was established. The Lisbon Treaty, being the most recent of these treaties, was therefore borne out of the need to improve on what previous treaties had sought to reform. This was to be achieved without deviating from the core objective of the EU in the first place, which was the standardization of legislations and policies that are beneficial to the EU as a whole (Besselink, 2010). It is during the standardization of such legislations and economic freedom between member countries that political integration is achieved.

In describing the historical background of the Treaty as just concluded, it is easy to lose touch of the implications of the Treaty. This will be the focus of the present section. In pursuit of its objectives, the EU thrives on treaties like the present one and these treaties are basically the primary legislations or basis for all forms of actions that the EU is recognized for. As an entity that is based solely on the rule of law, it is necessary, for every member nation to have a democratic say in the dictation of every action that is taken by the EU. As a result of this, it is necessary for the decision-making procedure to reflect this possibility. Prior to the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, the decision-making procedure of the EU used to be largely based on the judgments of the Council of the EU, consisting of 27 members (one from each member state) (Goldirova, 2007). However, with the Lisbon Treaty, it is now by means of the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, which brings decision-making also under the aegis of the European Parliament and places them on equal grounds in with the Council in either the adoption of a legislative initiative or vetoing a legislative. From the foregoing analysis, it is apparent that the Lisbon Treaty alone has largely affected the decision making procedure of the EU and this in turn will likely have an impact on the ability of the EU to meet its political integration objectives. Having described the historical background and provided a vignette of the implications of the Treaty, it is necessary to explain the manner in which the Treaty aids or does not aid political integration. The changes brought about by the Treaty are double-edged in the sense that they are fraught with both benefits and detriments to the EUs goal of political integration among member states. Integration, in the context of this paper, refers to the intention of the Member States to overcome whatever differences they may have in policy coordination and tolerate, accept, and trust one another in coordinating these policies and making decisions (Besselink, 2010). Presently, there are fears that the EU is on the path of disintegration because interdependence amongst Member States has turned sour, leading to a reductive temptation to recoil from the demands of solidarity to the illusory sanctuary of interdependent national sovereignty (Wurzel and Hayward, 2012, p.326). Despite such fears, one of the means by which the Treaty has enhanced political integration, is in the decision-making powers that had been conferred on the Members of the European Parliament. As a matter of fact, the European Parliament now has the powers to exercise both legislative and budgetary powers jointly with the Council (National Forum on Europe, 2008). The Treaty, by virtue of the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, mandates that decision-making be done on an equal footing between the European Parliament and the Council (Hix and Hoyland, 2011). However, there are exceptions in the decision-making procedures relating to foreign policy, police cooperation, and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (National Forum on Europe, 2008). Since the Lisbon Treaty has placed the burden of decision making on both the European Parliament and the Council, the inherent advantages become apparent. By this new set of duties, the Treaty ensures that any decision that is arrived at regarding member states have undergone immense debate and scrutiny by not just 27 members of the Council, but also the 750 representatives that make up the Members of the European Parliament (Best, 2008). This way, there is every indication that the conclusions arrived at regarding any decisions made will have widespread acceptance considering the number of people involved in the decision making process. For example, instead of relying on the votes of just 27 Council members on whether the EU should sponsor a peace-keeping mission abroad, the contribution of the Members

of the Parliament, no matter how few, will yield a much more objective conclusion, as it would have been through thorough debate. Involving as much people from the 27 member states as possible in the decision making process is beneficial to the political integration measures that that the EU, through the Lisbon Treaty and its predecessors, have sought to achieve. The reason is that the level of involvement of the various representatives of the respective Member States will facilitate their working together to arrive at a general consensus and this is good for integration. Apart from the joint decision making powers that the European Parliament now has with the Council, the voting system has changed from a system that requires unanimity to one that makes use of the Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) system (Griller and Ziller, 2008). This implies that there has to be a double-majority of votes before any decision is arrived at and for this to happen, 55 per cent of the members of the EU that comprise at least 15 Member States that consequently represent 65 per cent of the population of the EU is what is needed for decisions to be made (Griller and Ziller, 2008). In fact, Griller and Ziller (2008) assert that the current threshold for QMV to be applicable is about 73 per cent. This abrogation of unanimity is a step in the positive direction because it actually means that the usual delays that are associated with getting every member's consent on a particular vote will be avoided. In other words, decisions will be swiftly arrived at and in the case of those decisions directed at enhancing coexistence and political integration between the EU Member States, the swifter the decisions are made, the better for the EU Member States. Also, a more integration-directed advantage of the QMV system of the Lisbon Treaty over the conventional majority system is that it ensures that the interests of the minority Member States are well-protected, since it will become more difficult for them to be outvoted (Griller and Ziller, 2008). This way, integration is more assured. Another means through which the Lisbon Treaty has been beneficial to the political integration of the EU is the revocation of the ban that was placed on enhanced cooperation being used in the security and defense area (National Forum on Europe, 2008). Originally, the enhanced cooperation refers to the set of arrangements that Member States have with one another in cooperating with themselves more closely in a particular area. For their integration to be recognized by the EU, the concerned Member States have to be at least nine in number (Europa, 2010). Political integration is part of the fruits of enhanced cooperation as it implies that Member States that have things in common in terms of shared objectives that may further bring them closer may pursue the objectives together on a platform that encourages it. By default, enhanced cooperation aims to further the objectives of the Union, protect its interests and reinforce its integration process (Bonde, 2009, p. 28). The Lisbon Treaty, in terms of the enhanced cooperation measure, also ensures that discrimination in trade between member states is completely avoided (Bonde, 2009). A typical example of the application of this provision of the Lisbon Treaty is in the harmonized divorce law proposed by nine Member States of the EU (Spain, Italy, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Greece, Romania, France, and Austria) (Goldirova R. , 2008). Some EU Member States like Denmark and Malta were completely unyielding in changing their divorce laws and by means of the enhanced cooperation provision, the cooperating members did not have to be held back by the reluctance of the uncooperative Member States. Were any form of discrimination to exist, it is very possible that it will result in Member States having some form of enmity for each other. In terms of political integration, discrimination of any sort, even in terms of trade, will defeat the purpose and with the provisions made by the Lisbon Treaty,

such forms of discrimination will be averted. Furthermore, one of the objectives of the EU, as earlier stated, is the ensuring that there is free movement of people and businesses from one part of the continent to another. While this has been a laid down ethos since the early days of the EU, the Lisbon Treaty has made provisions for the extension of the EU's field of action, especially in the fight against serious cross-border crime and police co-operation, as well as in the mutual recognition of those decisions made by judges and courts, and the creation of a EU public prosecutor (National Forum on Europe, 2008). When looked at from the political integration perspective, it can be deduced that the presence of a secure channel of interaction (of businesses and people) between member states will contribute a great deal to bringing nations together. In as much as security is as borderless as the movement of people between Member States in the EU, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Member States will be connected to each other in more than one ways. These channels of connection between Member States transcends borders and ensures that there is equal justice and security of lives and property irrespective of where a denizen of the EU is located on the continent. Therefore, the provisions made by the Lisbon Treaty that are channeled at making sure that denizens of Member States do not have any fears regarding their sense of justice and security on any part of the EU alludes to the fact that the Treaty fosters integration between the Member States by keeping them safe and acceptable irrespective of their location. The previous three paragraphs have described the various means by which the Lisbon Treaty has sought to enhance political integration. However, there are quite a number of ways also, through which the Lisbon Treaty has not really enhanced the political integration between EU Member States. In other words, when it comes to the acceptance and trust of each other in the coordination of policies, the Lisbon Treaty has not completely been efficient. One of the means through which this is apparent lies within the core of one of the benefits of the Treaty in fostering integration between Member States by making them make decisions efficiently (via condescension). Given the legislative powers conferred on the Members of the Parliament that gives them joint decision making powers with the Council, there is every tendency that the decision making process will be challenging and fraught with disagreements. As earlier stated, with every policy proposal put forward by the Council, the Members of Parliament have about eight weeks to dwell on it and ensure that they are in full cooperation with the proposal (Kaczyski, et al. 2010). This brings into play; the possibility of having a negative response from the Members of the Parliament after such time has been spent dwelling on the proposal. If for instance, the Members of the Parliament differ from the Council on whether to support data-sharing or not, the implications on political integration as described in the fourth paragraph above, will be discouraging (Schnabel and Francis, 2005). It implies that differences in ideologies, an antithesis to integration, could arise between the Council and the Members of the European Parliament, and such differences are quite time-consuming. In addition, the Lisbon Treaty has granted the Parliament with the oversight that it hitherto lacked in matters concerning the EU's external policies, and just like the decision-making powers that had been conferred on the parliament, this has its own demerits on the manner in which some of these policies bear down on the concerned Member States. For example, there was an instance of the Parliament

having a direct influence over the removal of Cyprus veto in allowing the Turkishoccupied part of the country to trade directly with the EU. Such politically sensitive actions have been the order of the day since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as it has, in some cases, sort of pitched the three institutions (The Parliament, Council, and Commission) against each other. There was another instance when Parliament, due to the new powers enabled by the Treaty, held up the ratification of an agreement that the EU had with South Korea regarding European industries, that had already been negotiated and initialed before the Lisbon Treaty came into place. Just as in the previous paragraph, the Parliament's new powers have tended to cause some delays in the making of policies, some of which vary in their level of political sensitivity. In the case of those policies that are highly sensitive to matters that have effects on the political integration of the EU, then such delays will prove detrimental to the entire cause. In conclusion, the Lisbon Treaty, which is the latest ratification to the manner in which the EU furthers its objectives, has turned out to be both disadvantageous and advantageous to the cause of political integration among EU Member States. On the positive note, it has made the decision making process more efficient, made provisions for a smoother and more secure transfer of people, businesses, and goods throughout the EU, and has also reduced the chances of the minority being outvoted On the other hand, it has led to the decision making process being time-consuming, especially in those cases where the Parliament and the Council are at logger heads over a particular decision. Such a decision might be of high political sensitivity and may threaten the integration of Member States. Likewise, the Treaty's conferring of the Parliament with oversight that was previously non-existent has also threatened integration in the case of some countries. This paper has revealed the extent to which the Lisbon Treaty has positively and negatively enhanced the EU's goal of greater political integration. The presented arguments therefore, serve as some of the means by which the Treaty has altered the dynamics of political integration, either directly or indirectly.

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